Thursday, 23 December 2010

Why it's OK to shop on Boxing Day

Up until recently, very recently in fact, I thought that shopping on Boxing Day was bad.  I wondered why the people who were shopping didn't have anything better to do - an odd view, I know, from one who basically shops at every opportunity.  Although I could see the logic in waiting until Boxing Day to buy your loved one that perfect gift at a reduced price, it all seemed a bit, well, mean I suppose and what about Granny sitting at home alone?  No, I thought that it was very bad form.  Until now that is....

You see, I have come up with some very good reasons as to why we should go shopping on Boxing Day and here they are;

Laughing is good for us:  Now, we all know that laughing is good for us and laughing at other people fighting over their perfect purchase is funny.  I doubt that you will see two quite so famous (or handsome) people fighting in your local shopping centre - and they are probably more likely to be female - but you get my drift;

Men unite - Boxing Day shopping is a time when men can unite over the unfairness of it all.  Frankly I can see their point - being ripped from the heart of their home to go and watch their better half try on many an outfit must be soul destroying, which is why they can end up looking like a boxer dog on Boxing Day and that too is funny -  well, for us at least (see point above re laughing being good for you).

We've been saving hard and deserve a treat  -  With the amount of snow that we have had, we have largely been confined to barracks, which has meant no trips to the cinema, no bowling, no visits to stinky soft play areas (thank the Lord) no fun at all frankly.  The up side of this is that we have inadvertently been saving up and we all know that any extra that we have saved shouldn't be put towards life's essentials but rather it should be spent on treats!  So, here's my idea of a perfect treat:

This is one of Victoria Beckham's new bags - a snip at £1 700 and amazingly, still in stock at Net A Porter, unlike her crocodile skin bag for £8 000 which sold out in hours! I am not quite sure that the money saved on cinema trips etc this week quite amounts to £1 700 but I am sure that Primark will do a nice copy soon enough.

Exercise is good for us: After Christmas we could all do with putting a little less into our bodies and moving around a little more and so gentle exercise in the form of wandering around shops is perfect to get ourselves mobilised again after all that armchair sitting - and obviously a gentle stroll around the shops for a few hours will ensure that we will all end up looking like this -

Our immune systems benefit: All that staying indoors, cleaning our houses with anti-bac, cancelling plans with friends and family because of bad weather plays havoc with our immune systems.  We will be turning into a nation of wimps.  Time to mix with the general public, to expose ourselves to lots of bacteria and strenghten our immune systems.  Well, it's either than or go and work on a farm for a while - also good for the immune system - and I know which I prefer!

And finally, the most important reason of all!

I NEED TO GET OUT: I should say firstly that I know that I am lucky.  I am warm, dry and have plenty to eat.  However, I have made carrot cakes, lemon cakes and soup, I have done painting with the children and read endless Topsy and Tim stories, I have even had a couple of lie ins (bonus), done all the washing (even the stuff that I normally ignore for as long as possible) and tidied tidied tidied (although the place still looks a mess).  I have been lucky enough to drink plenty of mulled wine and fizz, I have eaten mince pies, watched Christmas films and eaten too many Quality Street.  Apart from opening presents I have done Christmas and now I JUST WANT TO GO SHOPPING.  Please someone, let me out, just for a while.

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year. x

Friday, 17 December 2010

The trials of finding the perfect outfit for Christmas Day

Let's say that I was being an outfit for the day - and then let's say that I had to choose a day when I would rather NOT be an outfit.  Which day would that day be?  Christmas Day. Without a shadow of a doubt, Christmas Day.  The demands placed on an outfit on Christmas Day far outweigh those demands placed on any other outfit - even an outfit for your wedding day.  With any luck, a wedding day is a one off - and a great day at that - so you can ignore the slightly too tight shoes, the slightly uncomfortable dress and the flippy flappy annoying thing that you have chosen to wear in your hair that day.

Christmas Day however - oh boy!  Does anyone ever feel that they have got it right?  Let's just think about what unreasonable demands we place on our outfit for that day.  We all wake up hoping that the Christmas fairy will have deposited in our wardrobes some amazing outfit that fits well, looks great, is warm and comfortable whilst being glamarous at the same time.  The reality?  The Christmas fairy hasn't been so we start the day feeling a bit miffed - never a good place to be when choosing an outfit.  The Christmas Day outfit has to be stylish yet practical, functional yet  beautiful, warm yet lacking in bulk, short enough and/or fitted enough to be the right side of Liz McDonald yet long enough and loose enough to play Twister.  It has to accommodate an expanding waist band, a change in body temperature as one warms up with alcohol and not crease when we finally collapse in a heap to watch TV.  So what's a girl to do?  My advice is go all out on the red lips and nails and as for the rest?  Comfort reigns supreme and PJ's are definitely where it is at this year.  If you are lucky the Christmas fairy will have come up trumps with some nice new ones, possibly with a bit of a cashmere number thrown in somewhere along the way but if not, well, just keep it in the family - no-one need know. Sssshhh!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Reindeer jumpers (again)!

On Tuesday 10th August this year, I wrote a post dedicated to knitwear with reindeers on it.  In particular, I said that I wasn't convinced that such a piece of clothing was for me.  Ha, if only you could imagine the amount of hours that I have spent searching, searching, searching for knitwear with reindeers on it - and all for our 11 year old daughter who has decided that Christmas won't be Christmas this year unless she has reindeers running across herself - not in a stamp your feet kind of way, I have to say.  She has just got this idea that a reindeer jumper would make Christmas complete -  and who am I to stand in the way of such a sweet, innocent wish?  OK so when I was 11 it was a selection box that made my Christmas complete - although I always hated the Bounty and the Opal Fruits really didn't earn their place in at all as far as I was concerned but there again, times change (don't even get me started on the change of name of Opal Fruits to Starburst).

I swear that I spent fewer hours styling a client of mine who got married today than I did looking for this jumper.  For a start, Birmingham came up trumps for the wedding outfit - but I had to go to Birmingham, Leamington, London and back to Birmingham again to find said reindeer jumper. 

The New Look ones had sold out.  The Primark ones looked as though they had been bought, shrunk in the wash and returned, there was such little stretch in them. There was a great one in Jesire reduced from £129 to £29 - which I was thrilled to find, until our daughter realised that she wouldn't be able to lift her arms any higher than her head without ripping the sleeves.  The funny bat wing thing going on really didn't cut it in the slightest.  The Fat Face ones were £70 and their sale doesn't start until boxing day and as for the the Johnnie B one, the one which started all this nonsense in the first place - that has sold out too.  Ironically, if she were a grown man, the choice would have been much greater.  Bizarre.  Or indeed if we wanted to stretch to £400 and buy a D&G one, that too would have been fine.

The elusive, headache inducing, "I will not give up until I find it" jumper was finally located in a shop called Internacionale in Birmingham (if you too wanted a reindeer jumper) and cost the bargain price of £10.  I am not convinced as to the quality but you know, I just don't care.  I sort of love it and loathe it in equal measure and I think that there might, there just might, be a tussle on Christmas Day as to who gets to wear it.  Equally however I think that there's a possibility that if I were parked in the corner with a selection box (minus the Bounty) I might just cave on that one.  It will be Christmas after all.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Simply Red

Golly, can you believe it?  December the 1st already; snow on the ground, advent calendars up and the re-appearance in our house of a little china baby in a crib who is most adamantly referred to by our two year old as "Baby Cheesus."  Mind you, I am not surprised that she thinks that she is right about "Baby Cheesus" and that I am wrong.  She must think that she is surrounded by idiots.  Having been allowed by her older siblings to have the chocolate from her advent calendar this morning, she then asked if she could have a KitKat for breakfast.  When I explained that no, that wasn't an option and that we didn't eat chocolate for breakfast, she gave me a look as if to say "What are you talking about you numbskull, what do you think I've just been eating?"

So, as to the title of this blog post, Simply Red.  I have discovered a new colour and yes, it's red! I have never really been a fan of red before.  I once had a red suit from Jigsaw which I loved, and some flat red patent shoes, but that's about it.  I bought the suit when I was training as a solicitor in London.  It was a sale purchase - too big to start with, then I shrank a bit and the skirt fell down around my ankles.  Not a good look, especially if you don't want to show your undies in public.  The other thing that I remember about that time in my life was sitting for weeks on end at the Land's Tribunal working on the most dull case in the history of mankind.  The hour after lunch was the worst and I used to have such trouble keeping my eyes open that it was torture.  One of the things that I used to do was to count how many Jigsaws I knew in London - surely a sign even at that stage that I was pursuing the wrong career path!

So far, I have made one red purchase and it is these patent Kurt Geiger shoes.  At £130 I thought that they were a little steep but with a 25% off voucher from Glamour Magazine and with a gift card of £59 to put towards them, I ended up paying just under £40 for them.  What I love is that the heel isn't too high so they should be comfortable whilst I am on my feet.  They are also really versatile as they can be teamed with skirts, dresses, trousers (wide or narrow) and jeans (skinny or flared).  The other thing that I really like is that they are cheerful.  I also like the fact that I have now totally convinced myself that they were a top purchase!

I am planning on wearing them with these grey tapered leg trousers from French Connection which I bought yesterday.  At £75 again, they were on the pricey side but I have discovered that there is 25% off at French Connection with Grazia tomorrow, so I will be returning them and re-buying them for a much more reasonable price.  I will probably opt for a black top with some detail on it and a snuggly fur gilet in black to keep out the cold.

I also have a pair of narrow cropped Boden wool trousers in navy (excuse the small picture) which I bought last winter in the sale.  They will work with the shoes, together with this sequin jumper from Warehouse, which is selling out quick! The jumper also comes in navy and cream. At full price it is £40 but I have bought several recently for style events and for clients and I don't think that I have ever paid more than £32 for it as there have been lots of 20% off days recently in places like Debenhams, House of Fraser and Warehouse itself.

One of the other things that I will wear the shoes with is this sparkly skirt from Coast - which is a current favourite of mine.  A sparkly skirt it is a really good alternative to a sparkly dress as it is so much more versatile. It can be dressed up for the evening or down for the day time, with a polo neck and flat boots.  When I wear the red shoes with this skirt, I will keep the rest of my outfit really plain as otherwise I am in danger of looking like something that ought to be hanging on the Christmas tree.  Again, this skirt is in the sale, down from £85 to £55 with another 20% off in most stores.

 So, my final item is a red coat.  My two favourite ones are in Zara (on the left) and Oasis.  Whilst I don't really go for the matchy matchy approach, the red shoes and red coat will work well.  The other trend this season is to "colour block" that is, wearing the same colour head to toe.  I am not sure that it would work with some brighter colours but it might just be possible to pull it off with red. 

 If you felt like being brave and opting for a red jean, New Look has a great pair - and here they are.  I am not sure that this picture does them justice but as a concept, it might be nice to wear them with a long jumper and tucked into boots - just showing a glimpse if you weren't feeling too brave.

 So ladies, there's plenty of red out there.  Don't forget a jumper or a red silk shirt as an alternative to any of the above, or just add a red lipstick to your make-up bag.  Just don't add white fluffy trimmings or you might end up looking like Mrs Santa Claus. Enjoy the snow!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

It's show time

This week has been spent styling some of the models in preparation for my next style event on Friday 26th November. So far we have hit LK Bennett, Hobbs, Jigsaw, GAP, Monsoon, Fenn Wright Manson, M&S, Oasis and New Look (whose party range I have to say, I think, is great.)  Next week it is the turn of the remaining models and the rest of the shops that Birmingham has to offer -which is a lot. I want to make sure that not only do I have a range of models of differing ages, heights, shapes and sizes but that I also cover the spectrum of shops - from the more expensive to the less expensive. We have just had a new Forever 21 open here - the US version of TopShop - and I am dying to take a peek.  Hopefully there will be some amazing finds for the styling event. 

My new rails have also arrived - six pink clothes rails, so that each model can have her own rail of clothes.  The experience that I gained from doing the event at Harvey Nichols was invaluable in terms of finding out the best way to organise the clothes for each model.  Hopefully I can take some of that away with me and put it to good use.

I am dying to show you the pictures of the best finds that I have come across whilst out in the shops but I don't want to spoil it for those who come along to the event.  I will report back afterwards though to tell you about the most popular items, as there are always some things that go down better than others. 

I find that whether people like something or not can depend on how often they are exposed to it.  Obviously some pieces speak for themselves but in some cases, the more that the audience sees a piece, the more familiar it becomes to them and the more they like it. The psychology behind the way that individuals approach clothes can be so complicated that it is hard to predict who will like what and who won't.  The same is true for how they perceive their shape.  You would be amazed how many women have hang ups as a result of comments made to them, most commonly by an ex-boyfriend or their father - and how many of those hang ups are completely without foundation. I have also realised that we are all creatures of habit and that habits can be hard to break, especially when we don't realise that we have them or if we do, how to go about breaking them.  We can have very strong associations with things, particularly colours, which put people off - the classic being that a particular colour reminds them of their school uniform.   It can be the same with trends which re-appear further down the line.  I used to feel that if we did a trend the first time around we shouldn't do it again - and that is true of some things but not others.  A lot can depend on whether the trend is age appropriate - cropped tops for example, or whether it now suits a person's particular size.  In essence I think that the key is to remain open minded and more often than not, it is more about how an item is styled.  Anyway, with the help of my lovely models,  I will do my best to show people how to put different outfits together, how to style the different body shapes and show them what is on trend for the season. Hopefully there will be plenty of fun along the way and some satisfied, more confident, ladies at the end of it.  I will let you know how it all goes.

I blame Jeremy Clarkson

"It started out so well...." To quote the opening line of the Queen song "Save Me" (actually that's not strictly how the lyrics go, but they aren't far off.)  I am talking about yesterday, the day that I was meant to sit down and get together the figures for my tax return, which instead turned into the day that I .....went shopping.  Oh la la, now there's a surprise. 

Between 8am and 9am I was hugely productive.  I sat on the bed, surrounded by paperwork, whilst half listening to Daybreak - research purposes naturally, just to see if it is as bad as they say.  All that I can really remember is Adrian's pull-over, as my Grandma called them, and boy what a pull-over it was.  I reckon that someone had pulled something over his eyes when he made that choice of outfit for the day. Bless. If that is all that I can remember about the programme I'm not really sure what that says about it and whether, in fact, it says more about me but anyway, there we have it. 

So that hour was productive, despite the fact that it took me at least half an hour to realise that I was doing the figures for the wrong tax year but by then I was flying, so it didn't take long to catch up.  That first hour was followed by a run for an hour with friends so, in its own way that too was productive, despite the fact that at one point it felt as though my head was about to fall off.  When the going gets tough, one of my good running friends has this nasty habit of a) running faster and b) talking more.  She reckons that there is logic to this in that it gets it over with much quicker and it also acts as a distraction.  I just don't buy it personally but she's lovely so I'll let her off - and she does make me laugh. 

So, on arriving home at 10am, that gave me two hours to do the tax figures before picking up child number 3 and that's where it all started to go so very, very wrong.  Frankly there was only one person to blame.  Yes, you've got it - Jeremy Clarkson.  You see, my husband was going out yesterday to the Top Gear motor show at the NEC and for obvious reasons he didn't want to drive.  Rather, he wanted a lift to New Street station.  Well, for those of you who don't know Birmingham, let me tell you, if you are at New Street, you practically have one foot in the Bull Ring and I decided that it would be rude to be so close and not to pop in, just for a while at least.  I make it sound like a fluke that I was there but actually it was a finally orchestrated shopping expedition with several missions to be accomplished in a very short space of time and you know what, I completed nearly all of them.  The black boots that I was after, sorted.  The grey tweed peg trousers from Oasis, definitely not sorted - they looked like jodphurs on me.  The red Zara cropped jeans - sorted. The black GAP tux jacket sorted and with 30% off it was a top bargain too - and I was still there in time to pick up child number three on time.  It's amazing what you can achieve in 40 minutes.  Ah yes, but aren't I missing the point?  That wasn't what I was meant to achieve yesterday now was it?  No doubt my conscience will  remind me of that the day before the dastardly deadline for the tax return to be filed actually arrives. Pah, what conscience?  It was nothing to do with me.  It was all Jeremy Clarkson's  fault.  Honest.

Just as an aside, I have written a blog post entitled "how to style an apple shape" for the new online Boden community page. Further posts will follow on how to style the other body shapes too.  You can find the post at

Sunday, 7 November 2010

One year on ....

So then, where to start?  I'm really not that sure. Could it be to do with the glass and a half of fizz that I have just had (lightweight - and two days after our wedding anniversary!) which means that I can't get my thoughts together, or is it just the fact that there is a lot going on? 

Well, I have to start somewhere, so here goes.  Helen at Fashion Felines has been lovely enough to pass on an award to me - the award of "Versatile Blogger".  Being new to the blogging game I am not quite sure how this award stands in the blogging community but I accept it graciously and with many thanks, on the basis that it is nice that someone out there likes my blog enough to read it and to give me an award.  On the other hand I am hoping that Helen is reading this so that she can get in touch and tell me what the flip to do next. There are certain rules that attach to the award, such as nominating other blogs etc and I don't want to offend blogging etiquette by getting it wrong and being ostricised before I even really get started. I can't work out for the life of me how to contact her through her blog so Helen, please get in touch and tell me what to do next!

I am pleased to report that the Harvey Nichols event was a real success - well I think it was - the Chief Executive and the Chairwoman of the Children's Hospital were very positive and no-one booed me, other than when I referred to one models as having shapely hips, but she had actually referred to herself as having a "big bum" beforehand so I was actually being sensitive.  The models were lovely and had their friends there to cheer them on, so the atmosphere was great.  They also played up to the crowds brilliantly so there was much hilarity. Although we had to do some outfit substitutions, on the whole most of the outfits that we had chosen were available and ironically it was the last minute subsitutions that were, in some cases, the biggest hits.  The only thing that I needed to select on the night were some further bags.  Being told by the Events Manager to "go and help yourself to whatever you like off the shelves" was lovely. I have to say that I love the "Loopy Leopard" Mulberry bags - if only for the name.  I am hoping that we will have raised lots of money for the Birmingham Children's Hospital. 

It is almost a year since I gave up my job reviewing miscarriages of justice and stepped into the murky world of styling.  I have to say that whilst at times it has been challenging and lonely - starting out on my own without anyone else doing the same thing as me locally - I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  So, what's next?  Well, I have lots of individual clients to style between now and my next event on November 26th so life is going to get even busier.  Will that mean an even larger pile of odd socks that need to be paired?  Almost certainly but hey, life's short and there's plenty of time for socks to be paired when I haven't got anything else to do with my time - that's what I figure anyway.  There's also the time that it takes to market the event and style the models. I am also looking to the future and to the first few months of 2011 and considering just how I am going to grow the business when no-one has any money and the thought of spring is just too far away to even contemplate.  Hmm, tricky but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.  Oh crikey - and then there's Christmas to sort out. Do you think that we could just delay that for six weeks or so?  Please?

The children continue to amuse me (and baffle me - how is it that an eleven year old can be so mature.  Aren't I meant to be the adult?!)  Our two year old proudly informed me today that she can now do a "toilet roll" (forward roll) so in her world at least, life is pretty exciting.  I like that, viewing the world upside down and with a slightly different way of expressing things - I must try it some time.

Monday, 1 November 2010

It's only rock and roll...

As lots of you will know, I run Style Events.  They are really busy in the lead up and I am left with little time to sort out my own clothes/hair/make-up etc.  What with also not sleeping too well (will people like the outfits or won't they, have I catered for all tastes, budgets and bodyshapes etc) and losing my appetite, I am generally a bit of a shambles. Whilst most of the models also have children, so are therefore rushing out of the house with little time to spare, at least their outfits have been thought about and they get their make-up done professionally. 

My Mum often comes to look after the children when I am doing those events and I swear that she thinks that I can only cook one meal.  "Oh," I say "don't worry about the children's meal.  I have cooked a macaroni cheese (again)."  The good thing about it is that I can prepare it weeks in advance and stick it in the freezer.  True, two have it with peas and one doesn't, one has it with vinegar and two don't, two like it crispy on top and one doesn't but you know, on the whole, it works pretty well.  At that stage in the game I am usually rummaging through my dodgy make-up bag searching for my one and only vaguely decent eye shadow which sort of falls down my face after a while but hey, it's silver and could almost pass for a highlighter - albeit in slightly the wrong place.  I am usually wearing an old dressing gown over my outfit at that stage just in case I am waved off with macaroni cheese fingers (or tears in the case of one, sometimes combined with yucky nose contents) and I have been known to open the front door and fling it back in, having left wearing it in error. Generally things come together on the night but sometimes I feel that it is all a bit precarious.  I wouldn't be surprised if I had one of those back of the dress in the knicker moments in front of lots of people but then I figure that, having had three children, I am devoid of any dignity in any event so I don't mind too much.  (I won't go into the story about how our last child was delivered by the Dad of one of the pupils at our children's school - I still can't look him in the eye.)

I am wondering whether tomorrow might just turn into one of those "it's not quite happening" sort of days.  I am back in to Harvey Nichols to get together the clothes for the models to wear on Thursday night.  The only problem is that when I selected the clothes over a week ago, HN couldn't guarantee that they would have everything in stock when I needed it.  Now, there are only so many items that you can take away from an outfit before the outfit is no longer an outfit but just a pair of shoes - and then that kind of event really isn't one that should be a fundraising event for a Children's Hospital now is it?  So, I wait with anticipation to see what tomorrow brings.  Depending on what stock HN has, Thursday could be a huge success or it could be an unmitigated disaster.  If I feel disaster looming I might just have to head to the cocktail bar, do my make-up like Alice Cooper then tuck the back of my dress in to my knickers to create a much needed distraction.   Personally I think it sounds quite rock and roll! I will let you know how I get on.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Holy (fake) Houlihans!

For those of you who have been dreaming of Houlihans but more realistically searching for a good copy, there's a new kid on the block and they do a pretty good job of imitating the real thing. The GAP skinny cargos are priced at £35 and come in three colourways. I have it on good authority that they are thinner than the real thing but given their price, I think that we can live with that. As an alternative to the GAP version, Whistles do a pair for £75 and Oasis for £45.

If any of the above come very skinny in the leg, they can be harder to wear, particularly if you tend to carry weight on your lower half. However adding some height with a heeled desert boot and adding longer layers which finish lower than your widest point will help balance your proportions. Adding detail on your top half, either in the form of jewellery or embellishment will draw the eye upwards. So, give the GAP ones a go and let me know how you get on.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Watermelons and Pumpkins

Style has well and truly escaped me this week. Take for instance the woolly socks with the jeans tucked in (very last of the summer wine) and the pink converse. Not v stylish at all but practical in many ways as I was going to go for a walk along the beach. The socks took up the extra space in the wellies, which, heaven forbid, were not allowed in the car in case I got sand in it; hence the converse. No, this week is all about kicking back, baking cakes, carving pumpkins and letting off fireworks. At the start of the week I tried to maintain some level of style with my sparkly vests, layering and animal print scarves but now I have thrown in the towel and instead am reading about those who would not be seen dead in anything but their latest finery, such as Anna Dello Rosso. I am not quite sure that I will ever feel comfortable sporting a watermelon on my head, as she did at LFW, but as for a carved pumpkin? Well, there are three gruesome looking ones staring at me as I sit outside on the verandah so you never know, I might just give them a whirl instead!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Stylish shoes and snowy bags

I have this list, a list in my head, of things that need doing.  It goes something like this: washing, ironing, collect parcel from post office, go to bank, get ribbons for daughter's ballet shoes, collect new tennis bag for son, do note for the cleaners, pack for the holiday, tidy up, empty the fridges and so on.  I really need to get our son's hair cut. He came home with his school photo the other day and I thought how much he resembled me at the same age.  Worrying on many levels but largely a) because he's a boy and b) it was in the 70's that I was the same age as him.  Poor chap.

Anyway, so what do I do?  None of the above jobs - they will all get done, somehow.  What I haven't done for a long time is create a new post on my blog -so here I am.  Children number 1 and 2 are playing on the Wii - a replacement for the one that was nicked in the summer when someone decided that it would be a good idea to enter our house in the middle of the night and relieve us of ours.  Child number 3 is having her nap but my minutes are limited so I should crack on.

I have had a fab but busy time recently.  Yesterday and the day before were spent in Harvey Nichols, styling models for an event that I am doing there on 4th November in aid of Birmingham Children's Hospital.  The models are all nurses from the hospital, which is great.  At one point I looked down and realised that I was surrounded by about £5 000 worth of shoes - Louboutins, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Miu Miu - and none of it seemed real.  The security guard was kind enough to let me in before the store opened, so that I could get rails of clothes together.  It was eerily peaceful - just me on my own in Harvey Nichols selecting beautiful clothes.  I keep meaning to check with the Manager whether he is happy for me to wear something other than one of his brands on the night.  I hope that he will say no.

As for today - that's a different matter.  The children have broken up from school so it's back to the jeans, jumpers and converse.  I have to say that I am loving my new find - chunky jumpers - largely for the reason that - wait for it -surprise, surprise, they keep me warm! I have made two new purchases from COS but unfortunately I can't show you any pictures as their things can't be bought on line.  One is verging on the quirky side of naff as it is a cardi with snowflakes on it but I like it and it will work well with my Whistles utility trousers and heeled desert boots.  The other one is blue and white with a funnel neck which is very toasty.

So anyway, we are off to the land of warm, wet westerly winds in winter (as we were taught in Geography) otherwise known as Wales and I am sure that the chunky jumpers will come in handy when crabbing from the pier in the freezing cold.  One thing that I won't be taking with me, as much as I love them, are these....
the LK Bennett sledge court shoe. They are a recent purchase of mine, having initially been lent to me by LK Bennett to show at a style event that I was running.  I love them because not only are they comfortable but they are really versatile -  a kind of one evening shoe fits all type of thing.  I had the beige ones in the summer and they did a great job too.  However, I doubt that they are really that comfortable when walking up Snowdon.  However I might be taking one of these...

the M&S Aspen bag - because it makes me smile and I can fit lots of snacks in it if I do make that climb.

For those of you with children, enjoy your half term break.  For those without, enjoy the peace on the roads and steer clear of the shops!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Chic Knits

You know you have those items in your wardrobe that really should be worn only either a)when you are indoors with loved ones or b) if you are going out but not liable to see anyone?  Well, I have one of those and it's not a pretty sight.

When I was on my Personal Styling course last year, I was told that I should always dress in a way that was either "inspirational, aspirational or both".  Ha!  The item to which I refer does not fill either of those criteria. The only "fill" that it deserves to be in is landfill.  This item is a navy blue boyfriend cardigan from Oasis.  Minus the bobbles it is actually quite nice and it is certainly warm - which is why I was wearing it when I was out yesterday evening.  It had been a cold and exceptionally wet day.  Against my better judgment I had run in the rain (again), despite knowing that I was likely to be in for a cold. This realisation hit me at 5am when seeing to our youngest and I noticed that my throat felt scratchy.  She was demanding her usual kiss and cuddle before going back to the land of nod for another couple of hours.  All right for some.  "Fabulous." I thought "Up at 5am, scratchy throat, unlikely to get back to sleep and about to go running with seasoned half marathon runners. Bring it on!"

Anyway, I became even more aware of the shortcomings of my cardigan from a style perspective when I got chatting to another Mum whilst out yesterday evening. Saying that I was out is really an exaggeration and makes my trip sound much more exotic than it was - all that I was doing was waiting for my son and his friend to finish their tennis lesson whilst simultaneously entertaining children numbered 1 and 3 at what is really a very tricky time on a Friday evening. 

So, there we were, chatting about the Style Event that I am doing this Thursday.  I was explaining how I would be assisted by 7 models, that I would be covering the trends for the season and doing sections on a capsule wardobe, new brands and so on.  I don't know what it was, and I may be wrong, but I felt that she was perhaps taking a glance at what I was wearing and frankly why not.  You can't hold yourself out as someone who knows about these things and not expect to be scrutinised from time to time.  After she had gone I too looked down and noticed the bobbles and not only were they bobbles but they were big bobbles.  I doubt that even John Lewis sells a comb big enough to deal with those babies!

So, reluctantly I came to the conclusion that I would have to buy some new knitwear.  I am sure that you can only imagine how distraught I was about that.  Fortuntately, having spent many hours in Kew this week for one reason and another, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted.  As an aside, I have to say that I think the knitwear in Kew this season is some of the best on the High Street.  So having established in my own mind that I needed three pieces, grey, navy and cream, this is what I came up with.

The grey cardigan costs £79, the navy one also costs £79 and the cream one costs  £86.  The cream one fastens with a pin, so it can be styled differently to how it is shown in the picture.  Now whilst they are not cheap, they should keep me warm.  Whilst I love layering and fine knit cashmere etc nothing beats something as thick as a blanket when it comes to warmth and these are stylish with it.

Of course during the course of my travels this week I have also come across these other items which I love.  I have to say that I have invested in the grey boots, which are from Dune and cost £155, simply because having put them on, they were far too comfortable to take off.  OK, well there was a bit more to it than that, but not much.  The top of the boot also folds down to reveal a sort of grey sheepskin look - so not only are they practical (check out the sole on those) they are also versatile. However I have also just spotted these lovely tan ones, also from Dune and also £155. It was really a pair of tan boots that I was after this season so now what do I do.  Maybe style someone else in them so that I get the pleasure from them vicariously?


The final items that I have my eye on are all from Reiss -  a navy pea coat (£225), a bracelet (£35) and a bag (£265).  The coat is the perfect fit for me - many are too large but this is neat and feels lovely and heavy.  The bracelet goes brilliantly with the seasons minimalistic look and the bag is just gorgeous.  I prefer the bag in black but it doesn't seem to be featured on the internet.  The bag  comes in two different sizes and the largest one is big enough to carry a baby and all of its equipment in so on the whole, good value really - if you have a baby.

So anyway, that's what I have been up to this week.  Hours in the shops styling my models for the event on Thursday and inevitably, spotting those things that I would also quite like for myself.  Can't complain really!
Have a good weekend


Saturday, 25 September 2010

Fabulous finds of the week

My husband is away this weekend and you know the first thing that I did when he left? Switched the heating on.  Bliss, the house is warm and toasty and the towels are dry.  I received his text that he had arrived at the airport safely and was eating an almond croissant, just as I returned from an 8 mile run in the rain.  OK, so my discomfort was totally self inflicted but I thought that it would set the tone for the weekend - me home alone with three children - painful!   Actually it has been quite fun -(nothing to do with the fact that one of them was at a sleepover last night and at a party today for a few hours!)  We are really having quite a peaceful end to what has been a really hectic week. 

I am currently shopping for, and styling models, who will be assisting me at a style evening that I am doing at Edgbaston High School for Girls on 7th October.  I have 7 models and we will be covering all sorts of trends and talking about how to style the different body shapes.  I quite fancy putting all of the models in a red dress and have them come out to "Lady in Red".  How cheesy would that be?  I think that I might have to do it, just because, if nothing else, it will make me laugh.  I have appointments with two more of the models next week and have a day to buy the things for my "skinted and minted" section plus buying pieces from new brands to show to the audience and pulling together a capsule wardrobe.  There are then the remaining models to style, the planning for the order in which I will show the trends, finalising accessories, sorting the music and deciding what I am going to wear.  I don't really ever like that bit - largely because I tend to put the models in the best pieces that I find, leaving me the "not so best" pieces to choose from.  It's a hard life. I have to say that the girls in the stores in Birmingham have been great to me - particularly the ones who are lending the clothes to me for the models.  I know that they will get free advertising from it but it's a great help to me.  I suppose the fact that I have known a lot of them since I used to shop with my eldest, over ten years ago, also helps.  At that time I didn't really know anyone else with a baby and so I would head into town for a weekly peruse of what was out there.  Since many of the girls are now Managers,that time was, as it transpires, wisely spent!

The event at Edgbaston High School on 7 October is to be followed by an event at Harvey Nichols in Birmingham in early November.  It is a fund raising event and, unfortunately for me HN have insisted that I am only allowed to style the models in clothes and accessories from Harvey Nichols.  Such a crying shame!  I must say - I can't wait for that one either. I think that I might just be a little bit like a kid in a sweet shop.  The bags, the shoes, the...well everything really.  I wonder whether they will lend me anything to wear - don't suppose that it would hurt to ask.

The Harvey Nichols event will then be followed by an event of my own on 26th November, also to be held in Edgbaston, where again I will be styling models in the trends for A/W '10 but with a greater emphasis on  seasonal outfits.  I loved the event like that which I did in the summer.  It was full of my friends and clients and even my Mum modelled for me - bless her.  I think the guests appreciate that I am not all about showing size 6, very tall models, but rather using ladies with curves - and not always necessarily where they would want them!  Showing people how to make the best of themselves, disguising a tummy, slimming down their hips and putting them in outfits that they never would have chosen for themselves, only to see their faces light up, is a massive reward. 

So, here are a few of the items that I have found out and about on my travels this week and which I really like....

This sequin long line vest from the M&S Autograph range comes in 5 different colours.  At £12 it is really good value and has enough stretch in it to be quite supportive and give a smooth line.  The sequins look great peeping through a sheer top, v-neck top or wrap dress. So that's my piece of underwear for the week...

This dress is from LK Bennett and costs £195.  The picture doesn't do it justice but it is a great copy of the Prada print that they have used and it is in a fabulous 1950's shape.  The shoes that I have chosen to go with it are...

these Also from LK Bennett and costing £150.  The chunky heel will look great with the dress, to which I have also added a skinny belt and cropped cardigan.

As for knitwear, my favourite piece this week is this asymetric poncho from Jigsaw.  It can be worn in lots of different ways, even as a dress believe it or not and it's one of those pieces that is really quirky and difficult to work out how to put on.  I always love those pieces because it shows that they are not boring.

 These are my favourite boots of the moment.  Also from Jigsaw and costing £79 (that's a lie - I'm not going to put the true price in case my husband reads it) but they are a fabulous colour and great for those of you who have more shapely calves and can't fit into a standard size boot width.  They are very soft and can be pushed down for more of a slouched effect.  The heel isn't too hight and yes, I think that I might find it difficult to hand them back - hence the lie above...And for my final piece, well it had to be really didn't it?...

 A camel coat from Hobbs, costing £279.  I remained resolute that I wasn't going to fall in love with a camel coat and fortunately, the colour of this coat doesn't suit me but I have to say, it is beautiful. It has cashmere in it and is the kind of coat that, when you put it on, you won't want to take it off.  They are selling fast so my top tip is, if you think that you might quite like one, order it now whilst there is still 20% off at Hobbs and then if you change your mind well, you've lost nothing.

One other thing that I have done whilst my husband is away is to carry on with our  Saturday night ritual of opening a bottle of fizz.  Being the pathetic drinker that I am, I only managed one glass before giving up. It just didn't feel right a) drinking it from my own glass rather than nicking his and b) drinking it whilst sitting on a child's chair trying to get number 3 to eat her dinner by reading her Peppa Pig stories.  So I put it away, bubbles still fizzing and then wondered whether it would, even with our swanky bottle tops, still be fizzy on Monday when he returned.  I decided probably not and wondered whether it could be re-fizzed in a soda stream.  What do you reckon?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

New loves...

There's something about being pregnant which means that your wardrobe falls massively behind and that serious work is needed to get it to catch up.  Take my last pregnancy.  Our daughter was born in January 2008.  So my winter wardrobe 2008 suffered because I was pregnant and then I don't think that I really surfaced again until spring so a huge whole started appearing then.  Come winter 2009 I was still feeding her, so that ruled out lots of wardrobe options for me - and the things that I did buy were, shall we say, investment purchases (apart from the very expensive sequinned top from Reiss!), so not many of them could be made.  Well, boots and coats always do a good job of covering up whatever may lie underneath don't they - so I figured that they may as well be good ones. The things that I now look at from before I was pregnant just don't hold the same appeal any more - some are too big, some are dated and some I just don't like, which means that this year, there is one almighty crater in my winter wardrobe.  You will, however be pleased to know that I am working fairly hard to fill it.  So far so good.
So, how did I go about doing this?  Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I was shopping for a hen party this weekend and fortunatley some of the guests were the same size as me.  Result.  I didn't really buy the things with myself in mind, in fact I am quite good at switching off from what I would like when buying for others - or so I thought, but it seems as though quite a few of the purchases that I made in my size might find themselves re-directed to my wardrobe, rather than back to the shops.  However, given that I didn't buy them with myself in mind, its not really like going out on a shopping spree for myself now is it?  No, I thought not too - so therefore I don't need to feel guilty.

So, what might I be keeping?

This lace top from Zara is a pretty and not too "full on" take on the lace trend. I will wear it with jeans, as shown, and possibly with smarter trousers but dressed down with a boyfriend cardigan.  I am not sure that I will ever do black lace again - largely due to it sharing the same name as that dodgy band who did "Agadoo".  No, I just can't go there again.

I rather liked the navy M&S pea coat and at £55 I thought that it was really good value.  It is a great weight for this time of year - not too heavy but warm enough to fight off the chill in the mornings.  The white shirt is from Zara - I liked the fact that it didn't have a collar as I find them irritating, yet it is still fitted and has pretty detailing on it.

The TopShop trousers at £28, again in navy. are a good alternative to the usual boot leg or wide legged trouser and given their price, when the style eventually fades (if it does; it is holding its own so far) I won't feel hard done by.  I love the White Company poncho and if it hadn't already sold out in my size, I think that, with the help of a birthday voucher from some lovely relatives, it might have found itself in my wardrobe.  I haven't given up yet, you will be pleased to know.

Yes, I know that it is all a bit navy, white and cream but as a basis, that's where I want to be.  I will add interest with the Hobbs leopard print belt that I have my eye on plus various scarves, knitwear, leather gloves and jewellery that I already have.  The one other thing that I have bought and which I love are these (and please bear with me on them....)

Being both black and grey means that they are versatile.  They have a slight heel to avoid that "frumpy" feeling that flat shoes can bring without being the sky scraper heels of late.  The fact that they are laced up also gives that added "security" when wandering around for hours. I will wear them with the peg leg trousers, a cropped pair of black trousers and a wide pair of black trousers that I have from Jigsaw (although possibly not all at the same time), which are slightly too long for flats.  I will also wear them with black opaque tights, shorter dresses and a cape that I have - for those times when I want to be smart but not too smart.  I hadn't really given heeled brogues that much consideration before but I think that I might quite get to like them.  Alot. So, as you can see, I am making in roads into my winter wardrobe but I don't think that I am quite finished yet.  Oh no, not by a long shot!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Something for the weekend

The best bit about my job is that, within reason, I get to buy all of the clothes that I love. The worst bit? Most of them go to other people, so I am left kicking around in my jeans and an ancient pair of sequinned trainers from M&S kids.

I decided that now that the children were back at school, it was time that I upped my game. I was also given the perfect opportunity this week as I am doing a style party on Saturday for 18 women, who range from 5 feet 1" to 6 feet in height and from shoe size 3 to 9 - oh, and one is also pregnant. So you see, I had my work cut out for me (hence the need for the sequinned trainers.) Armed with lists of the vital statistics of these ladies, together with their favourite brands, I headed off into Birmingham for a full day of shopping - only to return four hours later with a migraine. Ho hum! Not a great start.

Day two however was a whole different ball game. So, what did I feast my fashion eyes on and what did I think of the stores, a whole two months, yes, two months, later than my last shopping expedition?

I have to say that Zara was great, in particular, for a camel cape, camel skirt, chunky knits, a lace top, leopard print loafers and desert boots with a wedge heel.  In fact, as usual, Zara covered all of the trends and the store was well set out, the hard work being done for you, particularly if you didn't really know what to put with what.

The other stores worth a mention are GAP, for their maternity clothes which, whilst basic in colour were at least stylish and interesting and also for their new range of trousers, one style of which comes in three different leg lengths. Their ubiquitous biker boot is now in store and it is priced at a reasonable £65, coming in both black and brown. TopShop was also good for its maternity range and, in particular, its range for tall women.  There was a good selection of clothes and coats at good prices; although they could do with a wider selection of jeans because I am not convinced that all tall women want to wear skinny jeans all of the time.  New Look came up trumps for my lady with size 9 feet and I personally like the fact that the shoes are displayed and you can instantly see whether they have it in the size that you are after.  They also have a great selection of boots and I am loving my new desert wedge boot in cream (ish).  The crepe heel and sole mean that they are incredibly comfortable and they are definitely a change from the converse!  Finally, no shopping trip would be complete without a mention of M&S.  Whilst not quite what I had expected, they had a good choice of bags and shoes.  Oh, and before I forget, Accessorize had a great fake sheepskin satchel style bag in a nice colour, for £35.
I have decided that because it's a Friday, and because we are all tired (well, I am at least!) I will describe some of my purchases in pictures. This also means that if there is anything that you like, you can head off to the stores on Saturday to get it.

So, in addition to what I have mentioned above this is what I bought (and a lot more besides)! - The red dress below is from Oasis and cost £45, the purple dress is from Coast and cost £85.  The printed dress is also from Coast and also cost £85   .  All of these dresses are easy to wear in that they are a reasonable length and they are either a silky jersey fabric, or cotton. This means that they can be worn for lots of occasions and won't just be confined to your evening wardrobe.  I also wanted to avoid too much black so the colours just add a dash of something brighter.

The draped top was also a Coast purchase and cost £60 (the picture below doesn't do it justice; it isn't as shiny as it looks), the kimono top was from TopShop Tall and cost £50 and the necklace was from Jigsaw and cost £59

The items above, from left to right, are M&S £55, M&S £49 and TopShop £28

The above two items above are TopShop tall, £78 and New Look, £40

So, that is a brief rundown of the shopping that I have done this week.  Hopefully the guests at the hen party will be in a mood to whip off their clothes and try everything on, maybe even buying a few pieces for their evening out.  I can't wait to get going....I will let you know how I get on.

Friday, 3 September 2010

That September feeling

I realised today, as I felt a chill in the air in the early morning, that September really was here.  Well, I say early, it was actually 9.50am and we were late for my eldest daughter's hair appointment which was at 10am but as I chucked the pushchair in the back of the car I did think to myself "Oh flip, it's getting cold in the mornings."  I didn't think that particular thought in a romantic "Oh isn't it lovely that we can crunch through the leaves in the park soon,"or "Great, we can do the pumpkins for halloween and light the wood burning stove," kind of way.  I meant it in an "Oh flip it's getting cold in the mornings and I need to dig out my coats and boots" kind of way.  I then realised with sadness that I have to endure a whole autumn, winter and chilly spring before I can once again step outside and not notice the cold. That seems a long time to someone like me, who feels particularly cheated by a lack of proper summer this year. 

As for those who tell me (which I have also done) that September can be a lovely month, it does it in such annoying way that it takes the pleasure out of it.  Freezing in the morning so that I dress for winter, boiling in the afternoon.  Being a chilly soul I, better than most, know the art of layering but wearing an outfit to take me from 0 to 20 degrees in a matter of hours and without changing, really is a challenge. 

With all of that in mind, I decided that I needed to invest in lovely warm cosy camisoles and such like.  I remember seeing  a film, the name of which escapes me, but which featured Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law.  Anyway, it was shallow (perfect for me) and all that I really remember was Cameron Diaz spending the winter in a lovely country cottage with snow on the ground. She wore a lovely array of marshmallow coloured cashmere casual wear.  Oh, and Kate Winslet getting it together with Jack Black which frankly, seemed unlikely to me, but there you go.  Anyway, I liked the thought of the marshmallow coloured cashmere separates but then I decided that her general Californian glow and blonde hair contributed to the success of the overall look, and that if I tried it I would look less marshmallow like and more maggot like - which steered me away from that idea.

Instead it will be a trip to M&S to stock up on the thermals, to GAP for the woolly socks and to wherever else promises me that I can wear light diaphanous fabrics in the winter, provided that I wear their undergarments.  So, the hunt is on - this year I will crack it - I have to. Well, either that or spend a fortune on the Burberry aviator jacket. 

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Getting the basics right

Isn't it funny how the things that come naturally to us, like being able to draw, or cook, or sew, are the things that we take for granted.  Sometimes we don't really realise that we have a skill at all because it comes so easily.  Try asking someone who is good at art how they manage to draw and they just brush it off with a quick - " I don't know really, it just happens".  Not much of an explanation to someone who couldn't draw Bod, even if she tried.   However we are really aware of the things that we find difficult and a challenge.  Take me and technology - true, things are getting better and gradually the fog is lifting, but even getting this blog off the ground has been a challenge.  So, I just wanted to say "thank you" to all of those lovely people out there in "blog land" who have helped me when I have been close to tearing my hair out (and to my daugher's 11 year old friend who helped me too - what a star!) 

For those of you who find putting a wardrobe together the equivalent of my technological inadequacy, maybe I can help you to find your way.  What always amazes me is the lack of practical advice out there.  I see people write into magazines asking for help in locating, say, a dress - perhaps a full length dress for a beach wedding with budget of £150.  The answer can often bear no relation to the question asked. Quite often the suggestion is to "blow the budget" on a designer number.  What's all that about - if the person had a £300 budget they wouldn't be writing in for advice in  the first place now would they?  They would just have gone to Selfridges or Harvey Nichols and sorted it quick smart.  Also, have you notice how every answer comes back with the line "and don't forget the killer heels."  The final nail in the coffin if ever there was one, especially if you have children in tow.

It's the same with adverts for the designers.  Personally, I love the Chloe advert - all camel trousers, pale silk shirt and high heels.  Now how does that translate to every day life with a rug rat in tow?  Huh, tell me that!  I would love to see a model going down the catwalk with a toddler in tow, sticky fingers, runny nose and so on and let's face it, that's where a lot of us are.  We are also in and out of the car or walking to the bus, in and out of the rain (a brolly and a puschair are just impossible to negotiate), up and down the stairs, round and round the garden like a teddy bear, or so it feels.  Not for one minute am I saying that having children means that you should ignore your wardrobe and resign yourself to wearing nothing but old clobber but let's face it, there are limitations within which we have to work.

So, what is the answer when we want to look stylish but have a family to contend with?  Let's add into the mix that small children and accessories of the necklace/chunky ring/bangle/belt with buckle variety don't really mix and it seems as though we consigned to a life of baggy jeans, trainers and t-shirts.  Well, you know what, on a day to day basis we more or less probably are, but we can do it in a stylish way.  Before I start though, I should just say that no one has paid me anything to say nice things about their clothes and they are really only used to give ideas and guidance - but I would be more than happy to wear any of them!

Take the jeans - jeans aren't to be knocked.  If they are good enough for cowboys they are good enough for Mums.  OK, so cowboys get to spend most of their working life sitting down, whereas Mums would like to, but jeans are hardwearing, practical and reasonably priced. If everyone wore the right size and shape jeans in the right colour,  the world (and in particular soft play areas) would be a much more attractive place.  Everyone should ditch those pale, washed out too loose jeans that reveal too much when they bend down and replace them with a dark pair of bootcut jeans that fit.  It can take a little time to find the right pair but they are out there.  Try to get some that fit without a belt so that a belt can be worn as an accessory, maybe over a cardigan and at waist height, rather than as a means of holding one's jeans up.  The ones that I have found to be most successful for my clients, and the most reasonably priced, are from Gap. Hobbs also has a great pair of dark bootleg ones that somehow seem to fit everyone and for those who have a much smaller waist than hips, the high waisted ones from Next avoid that gaping issue at the back. As an alternative to jeans, look to the Zara basic range for navy or black cotton trousers in a variety of cuts.  The price is good, they are machine washable but do expect to go up a size. 

As for tops, there are nice tops out there that cater for a less than flat tummy, or arms that are a little heavier than we might like.  They don't have to look like oversized men's t-shirts though.  Try a stripe, print or colour
for variety and try a longer length top layered under a shorter cardigan for a different look.  These tops are  from Jigsaw and tick the boxes of being something other than black.  They also create a drape effect over a less than flat tummy.

Try to make knitwear interesting.  Work in some colour for variety and look out for cheaper cashmere.  Contrary to popular belief it responds well to washing and is far softer and warmer than you might think.  Many of the Supermarkets sell reasonably priced cashmere.  Or try a wrap top cardigan, or put your cardigan on back to front - buttons down the back can look very stylish. Just experiment even within the realms of the simple basic jeans, top and jumper to see how many variations on a theme you can create.  All of the knitwear below comes from the Boden catalogue and comes in a wide range of sizes and colours.  Their customer service is always great too and with offers constantly running you won't ever have to pay full price for anything.

Boden breton tunic

In relation to footwear - look a little further afield than trainers.  Converse style trainers are practical and come in a good range of colours and prints.  The leather ones are also starting to come into the shops now and these are slightly more practical. These velvet ones from Boden are lovely and they also do leather ones too, in a variety of colours.

A brown biker boot can look great with jeans and dresses alike and will last years if kept well polished - they also tend to have a very slight heel and so can take away from that "dumpy" feeling that completely flat boots give.  The ones shown below are from Boden and also come in brown. M&S does a good range of smart riding/biker style boots in the winter and the fact that they also come in half sizes and a wider fitting is a real bonus.

When it comes to coats, it is too easy to go for the black or brown option, thinking that they will go with everything.  I have found that people always compliment a bright coat, especially in the dark winter months and a brighter coat is a great way to lift an otherwise fairly plain outfit.  This peony one from Crew below is no exception.  The pea coat style is a classic and will therefore never date.  Its length means that it can be worn with dresses, skirts or trousers and this colour will also go well with black and navy.  As an alternative for more challenging weather, the biker jacket/waxed jacket is both practical and stylish.  Being waterproof and warm it ticks the boxes for less than favourable weather conditions but because it is fitted and belted it still gives some shape.

Now we all know that capes are going to be big this winter.  For now I like this Laura Ashley version.  It is cotton and has a nod towards the trench coat.  For the colder weather, Warehouse has a reasonably priced black one and Cos has a camel  one.  Of course the other coat which will be "big" this season is the camel coat.  Whilst I do love camel and it can look incredibly chic, it can be draining against a fair complexion, especially in the winter, so just keep an eye out for that when trying one on.

If you haven't really embraced accessories before and don't know where to start, I have included a couple of suggestions below.  The ikat print scarf is from Boden and comes in a variety of colours.  If you aren't used to prints, this is a good place to start - it is subtle but on trend and being 100% wool offers warmth without being bulky.  Both of the belts are from Jigsaw.  The patent one is smart without feeling as if you are going to work and the detail on the plaited one is pretty.  Also because it is soft there is nothing for small children to catch themselves on and if you don't like the feeling of a belt around your waist, because this is so soft it may well solve that problem for you.

Now, whilst this post is all about the practical, there has to be a least a little space for the desirable (and not so practical).  I love these shoe boots from Jigsaw - the little frill is cute without being too girly and they would look great with an edgy dress.  As for the necklace?  I think that it is fair to say that the jewellery in Jigsaw has had its ups and downs but this season they seem to have nailed it and, sad as it may seem, my heart did skip a beat on seeing this one.  I hope that this post offers some guidance on how to dress stylishly but within the limits so many of us have to work - let me know how you get on.